ROCHESTER — Rochester Surround Care Community Corp. officials announced a new name and declared their commitment to working to improve the lives of families living in the city’s northeast neighborhoods despite the agency’s financial woes.
During a July 14 community meeting, board member Robert E. Brown explained that the agency — now known as Rochester Children’s Renaissance — has gone through several name changes due to legal and piracy issues that have arisen with former names. The new name is a result of a naming contest held last winter.
Members of the board of directors also presented the agency’s financial status. Its solvency remains in peril because of the state’s decision to not fulfill a $2 million pledge to the agency. This pledge is half of the $4 million commitment from the state that former Rochester City School District Superintendent Manny Rivera secured upon creation of the agency formerly known as the Rochester Children’s Zone, said board president Adam McFadden. Thus far, the agency has received $800,000, he said, and is still in discussions with state legislators for future funding since its contract with the state expired in June.
Along with financial issues, the agency also has faced other challenges of late, including reductions in staffing that included the sudden resignation of Executive Director Iris Banister this past February. Since Banister’s departure, the agency is down to two staff members.
Despite these challenges, McFadden said the agency is not giving up on the people it assists.
“We made a promise to the community that we would fight,” he said. “(But) we said this is a 20-year fight. … People didn’t get poor overnight. They didn’t get unhealthy overnight. They didn’t get uneducated overnight. It happened over time.”
Rivera based his Rochester Children’s Zone proposal on a model in place in Harlem called The Children’s Zone. The Rochester concept called for round-the-clock support for students in the city’s seven neediest schools.
“From the beginning, we wanted an organization that would address the social issues affecting children,” said McFadden, who also is a city councilman. “We’ve tried to do the vision while having both our hands tied around our back and being blindfolded. We’ve been able to accomplish what I consider a lot.”
Those accomplishments have included establishing collaborations with other local organizations to develop a chronic-care management telemedicine program at the Anthony Jordan Health Center, a Freedom School program to help at-risk students at East High School and a mentoring program for young men called Slater’s Raiders for Peace, said Nancy Sung Shelton, a city resident and the board’s vice president.